Saturday, 3 September 2016

On the road again!

As of 01/08/2016, my 23rd birthday, I can drive again.
The fact that this day was my birthday was a complete co-winky-dink, by the way. It was one of those delightful incidents when fate plays for your side, for once.
Let me explain as briefly as possible – I've told this story many times and hate repeating myself. It's a major problem. Due to my appalling verbal memory I do it all the damn time which makes me even more self-conscious when telling stories, like legit I watch people's faces to see if it dawns on them that they've heard the tale before and at the first sign of recognition I stop and blush...however, I have actual written proof that you guys know this story, so let's limit this to a teeny recap. 

Grace passes her driving test not long after turning 17 (she rushed learning as much as poss due to her crippling hatred of being the youngest in her year at school which was what brought about her biggest fear and insecurity: Being left behind. Anyway, psych analysis over). Grace drives for a year, racking up the minor accidents like she's earning credits for each one; the car she drives, Minty the Polo, is a map of bumps and scrapes and shiny new parts that have been added on when the former ones were lost (wing mirror, front left tyre, bumper). Then Grace goes to uni, and she leaves the car behind. Because a campus parking permit is expensive, every other road is one way, and basically everything is within walking distance anyway – plus trains to and from home, in and out of London, are way more fun than motorways. 

Then Grace gets brain surgery. Blah blah blah. Licence surrendered blah blah, DVLA says she is suspended for 6 months, blah blah blah.

Our girl Grace, 2015, about to drive to work in Tunbridge Wells.

Surgeon clears her for driving around 9 months after her first operation. She drives for 3 months, approx. She then gets hauled back to hospital and has the brain tinkered with again – God, so boring right? Sorry. 

DVLA hangs onto her licence and sends her a letter saying 'we'll keep it for another 12 months. Which is a year LOL @ U loser' [paraphrased]. 

Grace then has radiotherapy or something apparently, no big deal. 

DVLA then needs every possible shred of evidence that Grace is alive, that she is well, that she is not psychotic, that her body isn't in a constant state of spasm punctuated only by the odd scream for good measure. Grace sends them everything they could ever want, plus bells. DVLA still jerks her around like a jilted lover who has lost the capacity to trust. Deadline for DVLA comes and goes. Grace's support group online start telling her real life horror stories about their experiences with the DVLA. She starts to wonder if she will ever drive again. She cries looking at Minty the Polo in the driveway, lonely and deprived of her unique childish joy and endless supply of pop punk mix CDs. 

Grace finally gets her wish a mere 4 months after submitting her millionth requests and the most indisputable evidence imaginable – she had considered letting them have a look at her actual brain at one point. Just cutting her open and checking out the engine.
Grace calls the DVLA on her birthday, because she is a martyr. She's been calling every day for 12 weeks. She is ready for the usual spiel and general lovely apologetic Welsh tones to pour down the phone. What she's definitely not expecting is the good news she is given. 
Grace cries down the phone to poor Max, who is the Welsh guy answering her call on that particular day.

*quick note here: DVLA employees are not as shitty as you would think. No, the guys who answer the phones can be actual angels. It's the bosses that suck balls and gear sticks.*

Grace pays for her insurance. Grace opens the driver side door. Grace drives. At long last.

Grace, 30/08/2016, home from work in Hastings.

Yeah, this has taken a while. Getting back behind the wheel had become more than a convenience. It was my mission. It was essentially my independence. I wanted to stop asking my parents and friends for lifts, and much as I love trains, they don't get me everywhere. Plus I missed being able to sing along to my music at full volume.

Since being on the road again, though, things have changed. I am not the same driver. My friends would always say, when I gave them lifts home after college not long after passing my test, that I was a 'very confident driver'. Then one friend said, straight up 'you drive like a lad trying to impress a girl'. I don't any more, though. I'm insanely wildly cautious, now. I drive below the speed limit, I leave that precious 2 second gap between me and the car in front, and I don't overtake or cut up, ever. I never honk my horn if I don't have to. My music remains at the perfect low volume – it just about covers my atrocious singing, don't worry. 

For the first couple of weeks driving again, I felt like I was riding a bike, everything was natural and my muscle memory was strong...but equally I felt like I was making it up as I went along. Like they'd find me somehow and rethink, tell me they were wrong to let me have this back - they'd rip the card out of my wallet, kick me to the curb and shoot off in Minty the Polo.

Getting my licence back was one of the things I wanted most, post-op. It was one of the key ingredients I needed to get back to my life, get back to the old me. But I'm not the old me any more. A pink card won't take me right back there, to her. It's not even the same pink card, actually, it's a weird new pale one with a hologram of my face on the back and it only lasts a year (I'll have to be evaluated again, then).
That's fine, though. I don't want to be that girl any more. *stares off meaningfully into the distance*
Seriously. This me is way better than the mad driver. 

Little P.S. here: my dad complimented my driving the other night, when I picked the family up from the pub. I drove everyone home and Dad's words were 'I know I've had a drink, but you drove beautifully!'
How do you know if you're a good/boring driver now? When your bad passenger Dad, who would shriek and yell at barely anything when teaching you to drive outside your lessons, tells you that you drove well. I feel like I deserve a high-five. For being safe and boring! 

1 comment

  1. Aww I'm so happy for you getting your license back! I recently worked with a girl who had to surrender her license for twelve months due to medical reasons and she is counting the hours even until she can get it back because, as you've said about your ordeal, driving is your independence.

    I hope you have a happy driving future and have many midnight adventures to the supermarket :)

    Mel ★ www.meleaglestone.co.uk

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